If you’re looking for a country rich in natural beauty and epic landscapes, Finland is the place to be.
We had 3 weeks in Finland, spent driving from Helsinki in the south all the way to the northernmost parts of Lapland where we then crossed into Norway.
We explored many of the most (and least) popular places to visit in Finland and really fell in love with the country along the way.
With so many great places to see, deciding what to do in Finland can actually be pretty challenging.
So, to help you narrow down your bucket list, here’s a rundown of my favourite things to do in Finland.
So, in no particular order ...
By far, one of the best things to do in Finland is to make use of their “Freedom To Roam” laws.
These allow you to wild camp all across Finland, a unique constitutional rule that Scandinavian countries all share.
Though you must obey certain rules (like not camping within 150 metres of someone's home without permission), it allows you to stay in a vast number of state-managed campsites free of charge.
For us, visiting in October, we were the only ones there at every single place we stayed; and many night we sat out late into the night, with a roaring fire and food cooking over it.
Best of all, these campsites are located in some of the most beautiful parts of Finland, often next to lakes or amidst forest.
If you have a car or campervan, you will of course need to find one with parking access; as most are actually best suited to those tenting.
However there are still plenty to choose from and it makes for a really unique and wonderful way to see the country.
Not only is it the best way to get around the country, road tripping Finland is a LOT of fun!
They have very modern road networks stretching all the way up through the country, right from Helsinki to northern Lapland.
They don’t have large, multi-lane motorways like many European countries, which is nice as you never find yourself hurtling past scenery without the chance to see it.
Instead, you have lots of time to take in your surroundings and take in the astounding natural beauty everywhere you go.
It also offers you complete freedom and flexibility over your schedule and what places in Finland you wish to visit.
If possible, I recommend heading to Finland in the off peak months, where the roads are virtually empty of any other campervans.
Meaning you never feel hurried along by traffic, and you can sometimes go an hour without having other cars come up behind you.
One of the biggest things Finland is famous for are the Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights).
And it’s true, Lapland in northern Finland is one of the best places on Earth to see them.
Many choose to fly into a major city like Rovaniemi or Levi and base much of their holiday around seeing the lights.
Which works well because you'll find lots of tour companies here offering such tours and excursions to help you find them.
But if you do have access to your own vehicle, then I would recommend setting off for at least a few days to more remote areas and attempt to find them yourself.
To help, check out this handy guide I wrote on seeing the Northern Lights in Finland.
One of my fondest memories, looking back, is our experiences staying in glass igloo hotels in Finland.
There are now more than a dozen companies offering the unique chance to stay in glass igloos or aurora cabins, and they are scattered all across Lapland.
Though they vary in design and style, the premise is the same; all such cabins have glass roofs and walls, giving you the opportunity to lie in bed in complete comfort whilst the Northern Lights dance across the sky.
There is no guarantee that the Northern Lights will come out on a certain night, so you can often spend long hours waiting for the to come out.
But in our experience, there is no better way to wait then snuggled up in a large, comfy bed!
The glass igloo hotels and aurora cabins we visited include:
One of the most popular and famous places to visit in Lapland is Santa Park in Rovaniemi.
Without a doubt in my mind, this was one of the top 3 favourite experiences from Finland.
I absolutely love Christmas, and this was the perfect chance to let the big kid in me out!
I don’t want to spoil the magic too much, but put it this way … you have to visit Santa Park if you plan on visiting Lapland during Christmas time.
As well as meeting the REAL Santa, you can do a bunch of other cool activities, ranging from Elf School to gingerbread decorating.
What I loved most was how well everyone commits to the role, you really do believe that the people working here are elves!
Oh, and don’t worry if you aren’t visiting with kids.
Many of the people there are adults on their own, it’s not a kid-exclusive place.
If you plan to visit Finland in winter, then you might just make it there in time for the official Christmas opening ceremony!
It takes place every year in November at Santa Claus Village just outside Rovaniemi.
There’s lots of other great things to do in Sata Village (not to be confused with Santa Park which is just a few hundred metres down the road), such as husky and reindeer riding.
There’s also a large scale Santa Post Office, as well as a really fancy restaurant and some cool places to stay.
But the opening ceremony is a famous event, with hundreds coming from Rovaniemi and elsewhere around the world.
It begins with performances from local singers and dancers and ends with the big man in red himself, declaring Christmas officially open!
Husky rides are amongst the most fun things to do in Finland at any time of the year.
Sure, the most famous way to experience a husky ride is when it’s snowy and the huskies take you out riding quickly over the snowy landscape.
However, in spring, summer and autumn, when there isn’t yet snow on the ground, they have specialist carts that work in the exact same way.
Our visit to the Bearhill Husky safari in Rovaniemi happened in October, when there wasn’t yet any snow.
But we still enjoyed an incredible experience being pulled along by a big group of excitable huskies through the woodland.
As a part of our tour, we also got the chance to meet and pet the huskies and even some pups still in training.
We also got to learn more about their lifestyle and see upfront just how much the huskies really do love what they do!
If, like us, you are worried about the ethics behind husky riding, then I recommend doing your research ahead of time to find a company that truly cares for their animals and look after them for the entirety of their lives, not just until they are too old for riding.
One lesson we took away from our visit is that the huskies are in no way forced to what they do. They really do love pulling people along, and howl in anticipation until they are finally let loose to do what they were bred to do … run!
A common pastime for Finnish locals is sitting together by a fire, roasting sausages and enjoying eachothers company.
We learned all about this on our wilderness tour from Rovaniemi (more on that below) and maintained the tradition ourselves all throughout Scandinavia.
Many nights, we picked up a pack of local sausages and a tube of sinappi (an incredible tasting Finnish mustard) and sat by the fire roasting them and enjoying the skies and snow.
Looking for unique places to go in Finland, how about a visit to a local amethyst mine?
On oru drive north towards Levi, we stopped off at the Lampivaara Amethyst Mine in the Pyhä-Luosto National Park.
Here, you have an hour long tour which takes you up to the mine, where they educate you on the geology of amethysts and how they are made.
They then take you into a working mine, where you have the chance to dig your own amethyst from the ground.
You can even take one home with you, so long as it fits within your fist!
Cazzy found a real beauty, and we agree to pay an extra subsidy to keep it, as it was larger than the maximum size.
It’s a really unique experience and one that people of ages can love!
For more information on getting to the mine, as well as prices and other FAQ, check out the guide Cazzy wrote on the Lampivaara Amethyst Mine in Finland.
Possible the best free thing to do in Finland is to go hiking in their numerous national parks.
In total, Finland has 40 national parks all across the country and it’s fair to say that you are never far from one.
They are mostly all very well maintained, with walking trails and campsites located throughout them.
So, whether you are looking for a quick morning walk, or a week long hike, Finland is the place to be!
We’ve been to a number of wildlife parks all around the world now, but I was excited to visit this one because it features solely polar animals.
In particular … polar bears!
Ranua Wildlife Park is located just shy of the Arctic Circle means it is well positioned with year-round cold weather, great for all manner of arctic animals.
Including amongst many others, wolverines, wolves and reindeer.
It’s only 15 Euros to enter and takes around 2 hours to see it all, so well worth a visit if you’re things to do from Rovaniemi.
Reindeer are another one of the things Finland is famous for, and you will find them all over the place in Lapland.
As soon as we crossed into the border of Lapland, we saw a herd of reindeer grazing at the side of the main road north.
Throughout the rest of our visit, we saw them every day, sometimes at the side of the road and sometimes in the middle of the road!
Alternatively, another great way to see them is at a reindeer park, such as the one in Salla.
Here, you have the chance to pet and feed the reindeer, as well as speak to locals and learn more about them and how widely they are still used in day-to-day life.
I swear to god, Reindeer fur is one of the softest things I have ever felt!
If you travel the whole length of Finland, then you’ll realise that it’s an incredibly diverse country.
In my opinion, Finnish Lakeland is the most spectacular part of the country, and driving though it was a truly memorable experience.
To see just how many lakes are in this part of the country, just head to Google Maps and zoom in.
There is water almost EVERYWHERE, with roads and parcels of land criss-crossing them.
On our drive through this part of the country, it was almost impossible not to keep stopping to snap a few pictures either with our camera or the drone.
Something I really liked is that many of the best places to visit in Finland aren’t large cities, but are instead the small villages and towns.
In fact, there really aren’t many big cities in Finland, besides Helsinki, meaning that they all still hold a lot of unique charm and character.
For me, some of the most memorable places we stopped off at include Porvoo, Savonlinna and Inari; each of them far from being the biggest tourist attractions in Finland.
One of the biggest reasons I am so fond of Savonlinna is that it’s home to the northernmost stone fortress in the world (that is still standing).
Built 600 years ago, Savonlinna Castle is still in fantastic condition, and easily one of the best places to visit in Lakeland.
You can enjoy it from both the outside and the inside, and it has become increasingly popular in recent years for the opera festivals held there.
If you drive just north of Suomussalmi in mid-Finland, you pass a large field of wooden “scarecrows” all dressed in human clothing.
We hadn’t expected to see them, and driving past them almost caused me to veer off the road in surprise!
There are more than a thousand of these so-called “silent people” stood in meticulous rows covering all of a large field.
Upon turning round and returning, we walked up to them and took a closer look.
I wouldn’t drive hundreds of miles out of your way to visit, but if you’re passing by then this is certainly one of the more strange and curious things to see in Finland.
Remember earlier where I said that Reindeer are still used widely in Finland?
Well yes, that does include using them for dinner.
As long as you’re okay with that, then I’d recommend it as it tastes really good, and is a local food source going back hundreds of years.
Another local delicacy is fire-roasted salmon.
We had this when staying at the Arctic Snow Hotel in Rovaniemi, where they fire roast salmon right there in the restaurant beside a giant fire.
I’m usually not a big fan of salmon, but it really did taste amazing!
Finnish people love saunas.
You see saunas everywhere in Finland, with many homeowners having their own private sauna built next to their houses.
Many locals we met use them almost every day, sometimes for an hour or more, with breaks where they head out the freezing temperatures outside and then back in again.
Apparently, it’s meant to be good for you, but either way saunas can be a lot of fun.
The best experiences we had was at the Arctic snow hotel and Pyhan Asteli resort, where they have a hot tub as well.
Nothing beats 20 minutes in the sauna late at night, followed by a mad dash through the snow to jump into a hot tub.
As well as an abundance of reindeer, Finland is a popular place to see all kinds of wild animals all through the country.
We’re not exactly animal spotting enthusiasts, but it’s nice driving through the country, spotting wild foxes birds and even moose at the sides of the road.
The latter of which are actually pretty dangerous as they cause many of Finland’s car accidents every year!
If you’re a fan of bird watching, then you can spend days in the many national parks, which are home to a wide variety of birds, and famous places for bird watching enthusiasts to holiday to.
One of the top things to do in Finland is to take time honing your photography skills.
With all kinds of landscapes on offer, Finland is a dream spot for photography lovers of all kinds.
We picked up a wide angle lens before we left which allowed us to capture some particularly nice shots of Finnish Lapland.
We also got a lot of use out of our drone, which was perfect for capturing some epic shots of our Tinggly Blogger Van and the vast open forests beyond eyesight.
However, by far the most challenging and unique photography opportunity in Finland are the Northern Lights.
We found that photos of them looked so cool and actually allowed you to see them even better than with the naked eye.
I recommend picking up a decent camera that allows you to adjust the settings for night time photography.
For the cameras we used, you can read more about them here in my guide on 10 top tips for seeing the Northern Lights in Finland.
If you’re heading to one of the more popular destinations in Finland, such as Rovaniemi or Levi, then you should consider going on a wilderness tour.
On these, you get the chance to learn more about Finnish nature, and learn how locals have survived in this harsh part of the world for hundreds of years.
You also get the chance to learn about local wild berry picking, which is one of the most popular things to do in Finland in Summer.
When in Rovaniemi, we went on a night time Northern Lights wilderness tour, and it was a great experience.
On it, our guide taught us a lot about local firemaking techniques as well as top tips for hunting and finding the Northern Lights.
From Lakeland to Lapland, there is an almost endless array of incredible things to do in Finland in Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn!
The country constantly evolves throughout the year and there are so many great places to explore the whole way up.
When we visited in October, many people were surprised to see tourists there road tripping so late in the year; but I can honestly say I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Sure, some tourist attractions were closed for winter, but it also gave us the chance to see Finland covered in snow, making it a true winter wonderland.
We loved it so much, that Finland made the list of our top backpacking destinations around the world!
Put simply, we can’t wait to return in the future!
Perhaps next time for a ski trip …
If you’ve been and have any other recommendations for what to see in Finland, just drop me a comment below and I’ll make a note of it for our next visit.
And if you have any other questions, I’ll be happy to help wherever I can.
For more help planning your visit to Finland, check out these other guides we have written: